This article was written for All India radio, broadcast on 1st February 1972, on the occasion of Sri Aurobindo’s Birth centenary.
Sometimes a great wandering Thought sees the yet unaccomplished ages, seizes the force in its eternal flow and precipitates on earth the powerful vision which is like a power able to materialize that which it sees. The world is a vision coming into its truth. Its past and its present are perhaps not really the result of an obscure impulse which goes back to the depths of time, of a slow accumulation of sediments which little by little fashion us only to stifle and hem us in. It is the powerful golden attraction of the future which draws us in spite of ourselves, as the sun draws the lotus from the mud, and drives us to a glory greater than any of our mud or our efforts or our present triumphs could have foreseen or created.
Sri Aurobindo is this vision and this power of precipitating the future into the present. What he saw in an instant the ages and millions of men will unwittingly accomplish. They will unknowingly set out in quest of that new imperceptible quiver which has penetrated the earth’s atmosphere.
From age to age great beings come amongst us to hew a great opening of truth in the sepulcher of the past. And these beings are, in truth, the great destroyers of the past. They come with the sword of Knowledge and crumble our fragile empires.
This year, we are celebrating Sri Aurobindo’s Birth Centenary. He is known to barely a handful of men and yet his name will resound when the great men of today or yesterday are buried under their own debris. His work is discussed by philosophers, praised by poets. His sociological vision and his yoga are acclaimed. But Sri Aurobindo is a living ACTION, a Word made manifest which is even now being realised. And through the thousand circumstances which seem to rend the earth and smash its structures we daily witness the first reflux of the force which he has set in motion. At the beginning of this century, when India was still struggling against British domination, Sri Aurobindo declared: “It is not a revolt against the British Government…(which is needed), it is, in fact, a revolt against the whole universal Nature.” [Evening Talks, p.45].
For the problem is fundamental. It is not a question of bringing a new philosophy to the world nor of so-called illuminations. It is not a question of rendering the Prison of our lives more habitable, nor of endowing man with ever more fantastic powers. Armed with his microscopes and telescopes the human gnome remains none the less a gnome, wretched and powerless. We send rockets to the moon but we know nothing of our own hearts. “It is a question,” says Sri Aurobindo, “of creating a new physical nature which is to be the habitation of the Supramental being in a new evolution.” [On Himself, p. 172]. For, indeed, he says, “the imperfection of Man is not the last word of Nature, but his perfection too is not the last peak of the Spirit.” [The Life Divine, p. 680]. Beyond mental man, which is what we are, there opens the possibility of the emergence of another being who will be the spearhead of evolution as man was once the spearhead of evolution among the great apes. “If“, says Sri Aurobindo, “the animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man, man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the superman, the god.” [The Life Divine, p. 5]. Sri Aurobindo has come to tell us how to create this other being, this supramental being, and not only to tell us but actually to create this other being.
He has come to open the path of the future, to hasten upon earth the rhythm of evolution, the new vibration which will replace the mental vibration – as a thought came one day and disturbed the slow routine of the beasts – and which will give us the power to shatter the walls of our human prison.
Indeed the prison is already crumbling. “The end of a stage of evolution,” announced Sri Aurobindo, “is usually marked by a powerful recrudescence of all that has to go out of the evolution.” [The Ideal of the Karmayogin, p. 42]. Everywhere about us we see this paroxysmal exploding of all the old forms: our frontiers, our churches, our laws. Our morals crumble on all sides. They do not crumble because we are bad, immoral, irreligious, nor because we are not sufficiently rational, scientific, human, but precisely because we have come to the end of being human! to the end of the old mechanism – because we are in a state of transition towards SOMETHING ELSE. It is not a moral crisis that the world is going through, it is an “evolutionary crisis”. We are not moving towards a better world, nor, for that matter, towards a worse one. We are right in the midst of MUTATING into a radically different world, as different as the world of man was different from the ape-world of the Tertiary Age. We are entering a new era, a supramental quinquennium. We leave our countries, become itinerants. We go in quest of drugs, in quest of adventure. We go on strike here, enact reforms there, start revolutions and counter-revolutions. But this is only an appearance; in fact this is not at all what we are doing. We are unwittingly in quest of the new being. We are in the midst of human revolution.
And Sri Aurobindo gives us the key. It may be that the meaning of our own revolution escapes us because we seek to prolong that which is already in existence, to refine it, improve it, sublimate it. But the ape, in the midst of his revolution which produced man, may have made the same mistake and perhaps sought to become merely a super-ape, a better climber of trees, a better hunter, a better runner, in short an ape with greater agility and increased capacity for malice. With Nietzsche we also wanted a “superman” who was nothing more than a colossalisation of man. The spiritually minded want a super-saint more richly endowed with virtue and wisdom. But we want nothing of human virtue and wisdom! Even when carried to their extremest heights these are no more than the old poverties gilded over, the obverse of our tenacious misery. “Supermanhood,” says Sri Aurobindo, “is not man climbed to his own natural zenith, not a superior degree of human greatness, knowledge, power, intelligence, will, … genius, …saintliness, love, purity or perfection.” [The Hour of God, p. 6].
It is SOMETHING ELSE, another vibration of being, another consciousness.
But if this new consciousness is not to be found on the peaks of the human, where are we to find it? Perhaps, quite simply, it is to be found in that which we have most neglected since we entered the mental cycle, it is to be found in the body. The body is our base, our evolutionary foundation, the old stock to which we must always return, and which painfully compels our attention by making us suffer, age and die. “In that imperfection“, Sri Aurobindo assures us, “is the urge towards a higher and more many-sided perfection. It contains the last finite which yet yearns to the Supreme Infinite. God is pent in the mire … but the very fact imposes a necessity to break through that prison.” [Sri Aurobindo came to me, p.414]. The old Ill is still there never cured; the root has never changed, the dark matrix of our misery is hardly different now from what it was in the time of Lemuria. It is this physical substance which must be changed, transformed, otherwise it will pull down, one after another, all the human and superhuman artifices which we try to impose on it. This body, this physical cellular substance shuts in “almighty powers” [Savitri, 4.3, p.420], a dumb consciousness which harbours all the lights and all the infinitudes just as well as all the mental and spiritual immensities. For, in truth, all is Divine and unless the Lord of all the universe resides in a single little cell he resides nowhere. It is this original, dark cellular prison which we must shatter, and as long as we have not shattered it, we will continue to turn in vain in our golden circles or our iron circles of our mental prison. “These laws of Nature,” says Sri Aurobindo, “that you call absolute … merely mean an equilibrium established by Nature … it is merely a groove in which Nature is accustomed to work in order to produce certain results. But if you change the consciousness, then the groove also is bound to change. ” [Evening talks, p. 92].
This is the new adventure to which Sri Aurobindo calls us, an adventure into man’s unknown. Whether we like it or not the whole earth is passing into a new groove, but why shouldn’t we like it? Why shouldn’t we collaborate in this great, unprecedented adventure? Why shouldn’t we collaborate in our own evolution instead of repeating the same old story a thousand times, instead of chasing hallucinatory heavens which will never quench our thirst or otherwordly paradises which leave the earth to rot along with our bodies?
“Why should life have begun at all if it is only to be climbed out of?” exclaims the Mother, She who continues Sri Aurobindo’s work. “What is the use of having struggled so much, suffered so much, of having created something which, in its outer appearance at least is so tragic, so dramatic, if it is only to learn how to climb out of it – it would have been better if it had not been started at all …Evolution is not a tortuous path which brings us back, somewhat battered, to the starting-point. It exists “, says the Mother, “quite on the contrary, in order to teach the whole of creation the joy of being, the beauty of being, the grandeur of being, the majesty of a sublime life and the perpetual development, perpetually progressive, of this joy, this beauty, this grandeur. Then everything has a meaning. ” [Talks/Questions and Answers 1958: 12.11.58]
This body, this obscure beast of burden which we inhabit, is the experimental field of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga of the whole earth. One can readily understand that if a single being amidst our millions of sufferings, manages to negotiate the evolutionary leap, the mutation of the next age, the face of the earth will be radically changed. Then all the so-called powers with which we glorify ourselves today will seem childish games before the radiance of this all-mighty spirit incarnated in the body. Sri Aurobindo tells us that it is possible, not only that it is possible but that it will be done. It is being done now and all depends not so much perhaps on a sublime effort of humanity to transcend its limitation – for it means still using our own human strength to free ourselves from human strength – as on a call, a conscious cry of the earth to this new being which the earth already carries within itself. All is there, already within our hearts, the supreme Source which is the supreme Power, but we must call it into our concrete forest. We must understand the meaning of man, the meaning of ourselves. The multi-voiced cry of the earth, of its millions of men who cannot bear the human condition any longer, who no longer accept their prison, must create a crack through which will surge in the new vibration. Then all the apparently ineluctable laws which close us into our hereditary and scientific groove will crumble before the Joy of the “sun-eyed children” [Savitri, 3.4, p. 389].
“Expect nothing of death,” says the Mother, “life is your salvation. It is in life that we must transform ourselves. It is on earth that we progress. It is on earth that we can accomplish. It is in the body that the Victory is won. ” [Talks/Questions and Answers 1957: 27.12.57]
And Sri Aurobindo says: “Nor let worldly prudence whisper too closely in thy ear; for it is the hour of the unexpected.” [The Hour of God, p. 4]
December 9, 1971
[translated from the French by Maggi Lidchi, Pondicherry]
Born in Paris, Satpremcame to Pondicherry in 1953 after surviving the horrors of Hitler’sconcentration camps. He met the Mother and a life long quest began, of trackingHer evolutionary journey. The result of this collaboration resulted in thirteenvolumes of the Mother’s Agenda andbooks that have inspired so many like: SriAurobindo, or the Adventure of Consciousness, The Mind of the Cells, Onthe Way to Supermanhood and more.